Witty and thought provoking, two Vatican astronomers shed provocative light on some of the strange places where religion and science meet.
“Imagine if a Martian showed up, all big ears and big nose like a child’s drawing, and he asked to be baptized. How would you react?” —Pope Francis, May, 2014
Pope Francis posed that question—without insisting on an answer!—to provoke deeper reflection about inclusiveness and diversity in the Church. But it's not the first time that question has been asked.
Brother Guy Consolmagno and Father Paul Mueller hear questions like that all the time. They’re scientists at the Vatican Observatory, the official astronomical research institute of the Catholic Church. In Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial? they explore a variety of questions at the crossroads of faith and reason: How do you reconcile the The Big Bang with Genesis? Was the Star of Bethlehem just a pious religious story or an actual description of astronomical events? What really went down between Galileo and the Catholic Church—and why do the effects of that confrontation still reverberate to this day? Will the Universe come to an end? And… could you really baptize an extraterrestrial?
With disarming humor, Brother Guy and Father Paul explore these questions and more over the course of six days of dialogue. Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial will make you laugh, make you think, and make you reflect more deeply on science, faith, and the nature of the universe.
Who knew that the Vatican owned an observatory run by Jesuit scientists? Consolmagno, an astronomer who studied at MIT, and Mueller, with a doctorate in the history and philosophy of science from the University of Chicago, are brilliant scientists and theologians, and they both possess a slightly irreverent and refreshing sense of humor. The authors attempt to highlight how the perceived conflict between religion and science is severely overblown. To do this they employ a dialogue format, which works for a while but ultimately becomes tired. The content, however, is absolutely enlightening. Some of the topics the authors tackle include the Galileo controversy, an explanation for the star of Bethlehem, and the discrepancies between the book of Genesis and the big bang theory. Heady stuff for sure, but the casual writing style makes for an enjoyable learning experience. An excellent primer for anyone remotely interested in building a bridge between religious faith and scientific investigation.